Borges was altermodern way before Nicolas Bourriaud attempted to re-package post-modernism for the youtube generation. His worlds embrace the multiplicity of reality in all their fantastical horror. Reading Borges, one is plunged into a world were the laws of physics and narrative reality are constantly re-constructed. With an economy and use of language like no one else, Borges could instantly transport you into the mind and reality of the Minotaur as he wondered through his labyrinthine world, and then shift to a gaucho knife fight in lawless 1930’s Argentina. The key is in how he presented the work, he never wrote any novels, but published collections of short stories and it’s in the space between the stories that the reader begins to weave a series of connections that amount to nothing less than our whole human universe in all it’s preposterous glory. Way before the World Wide Web, Borges had connected our existential cries for help to a past and future where anything was possible.
It’s of no surprise then that contemporary artists are drawn to Borges’ work. The Turner prize nominated artist Mike Nelson included Borges’ The Immortal in his book A Forgotten Kingdom a collection of writings that influenced his work.
Fictions, named after Borges’ most famous anthology of short stories, is curated by Hugh Dichmont from Tether and Fay Nicholson a London based artist. What we have is a serious exhibition, not serious as in not funny, because there are some lighter moments, But serious as in that the show aims to explore the limitations of language, how time, memory and truth often surpass our everyday expectations, and ultimately if reality itself can be trusted. Eugenia Ivanissevich’s periscopes, that not only allow you to see the work in the gallery a new light, explore the latter but some also offer a glimpse into an alternative reality.
|'Untitled' by Helen Perkins|
This notion of duplicity is examined further by Marriana Simnetts video installation ‘Stalker” which uses found footage of someone following a woman around London, the sinister nature of the footage is reproduced on another projection as she recreates the stalkers exact route and we’re offered a glimpse of who we think the stalker may be by the artist herself comically reflecting the footage back at the cameraman using a large mirror.
Hugh Dichmonts’ work takes it’s inspiration from one of Borges’ most famous stories, ‘The Library of Babel’ where a parallel universe is contained in a vast labyrinthine library that contains every possible book and possible permutations of it. The work is the visual manifestation of a thought experiment, he uses the whole height of the Gallery to display, in a grid of seven by five, the last pages of seven classic books and has translated them using internet translation software into Spanish, back into English, into Spanish again and finally back into English, the results often being completely lost in translation as in the last page of A Clockwork Orange.
Other work includes Helen Perkins’ sculptural installations made from found everyday objects. Glen Jamieson and Aaron Juneau’s three channel video piece that explores the history and memories people had of the now dismantled Great Eastern Railway. Fay Nicholson’s ‘Translations’ a piece that will develop during the duration of the show, as she invites the exhibiting artists to translate a book of there choice into another, with interesting and thought provoking results. Finally the show is complemented by Hinterland’s Reading Room, which has a carefully selected selection of books relating to Borges and the exhibition as a whole, include Bourriauds Relational Aesthetics, to which the experience of the show owes a great deal.
Fictions is an ambitious project, with plans for the show to be shown in London and possibly internationally, the idea being that the work will mutate and change every time it’s re-addressed. The Bonington show works on many levels and is at once engaging and thought provoking without forgetting to not take things too seriously. Like a good record that takes a few listens to get into and understand the relationship between each song, Fictions is a grower, it lingers in the mind and demands repeated attention.
Fictions was at the Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University (19 March - 8 April 2009)